Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Attempt at Looser Precision

There is something so engaging about painter Carol Marine’s work – an incredible mix of passion and control, I would say. Relaxed but limited color? Broad-brush precision? I have 8 (yes, EIGHT, what of it?!) of her 6-inch square paintings.

The one posted here I paid too much for on eBay because I had gotten so peeved the week before at missing out on another one I wanted. I’m not sure what drove the bidding war so high this time…maybe the painting stood out because it came after a long series of whole and sliced apples, and then cracked-open eggs...maybe it was one of Carol’s better (they are all good) titles: “Pre-Blackberry,” because it is a blackberry blossom, before the fruit.

P.S. Carol your work is worth whatever it commands, and really more, so I’m not complaining about the $. Just shocked at myself for spending it, but what else is new…

Other artists admire Carol’s style – is it as easy as she makes it look? Not really, but I’m sure it is a pleasure to attend her seminars. On her blog she makes a lot of references to bribing the “kids” (always calls her students that) with chocolate and them plying her with wine. Yeah, baby.

She’s certainly known among her fellow Daily Painters (www.dailypainters.com). One painter that I won’t name was recently admonished by someone posting to his blog, you should study Carol Marine’s style – that might help you do a better job on the way your fruit looks like it’s floating above the plate. (ouch!)

Carol’s newsletter last Sunday had a response to students at a recent Sedona workshop that really resonated with me.

I mentioned one day last week about an exercise I had them do with a minimum number of brush strokes and subsequently got lots of emails/questions about that. One of the biggest reasons I hear about why people take my class is to become looser/less fussy. Of the things I suggest to my students, among them are: squint and see shapes and values rather than objects; make each brush stroke count/be deliberate; rather than defining your subject, consider suggesting it, with brush stroke. These things are very important in how I paint. I hope that explains it.
Source: http://carolmarine.blogspot.com/

I think one of the reasons I have bought a zillion (slight exaggeration) paintings in the past 3 months is that I see, feel, so many parallels between writing and painting. Most of all, the urge to produce a creative and heartfelt product for which you crave an audience, while knowing there may not be one, but you are going to create anyway – write, paint, even if you ask yourself, why the hell am I doing this, there is no payoff, etc.

I know my previous paragraph is fascinating in its own right, but the main purpose of my sticking it here is to explain that I found meaning for my writing in Carol’s paragraph about painting.

What Carol’s painting students seek is exactly what I need (always hard to use a strong word like need, almost a “should”…restate as want to? am thinking about?)…anyway, what I would like to do with my writing – be less fussy, less specific?, more suggestive than definitive. Well, not sure I can do it, but it is a goal. OK…a perspective, a reference point.

Here’s a practice subject that I’m scared to handle under pressure but will try anyway. Doesn’t need to be perfect (note to self that will be ignored) – that’s a big part of the point – this is about trying a new technique.

From rough blog notes – the draft was titled, Two things I really miss as a motherless daughter.

OK, following Carol Marine my technique will be:

Squint – look at shapes and values
Suggest, rather than define


Child Sarah:

Going to bed when sleepy, knowing Mother would still be in the kitchen finishing our joint project. Smelling the last batch of cookies baking, hearing drawers and cabinets slam politely, hearing the sink water run and splash – she always cleaned up. Some nights the whir of the sewing machine seemed to go on forever, she made so many of my clothes. I didn’t really learn to sew – or to fully cook - until after Mother died, because she supervised the hot stove and the fast electric needle.

With my stepmother, it just wasn’t the same. I was older, less trusting, supposedly less in need of supervision. She was a different person, more brisk, less intense. Is it cruel to say, less thoughtful? Not Mother.

Adult (I won’t say grown) Sarah:

It hurts to stay up late when I’m tired, to toss the last party chips, to wipe counters, to pull clothes out of the dryer, to get to a stopping place with paperwork. No mother to rescue me. No subject expert to take over. (Yes, when you lose a mother in childhood it’s easy to make her a brilliant goddess in memory.)


Child Sarah:

Mother would make me choose – this dress or that one, we are only buying one today. The 2nd choice might show up for my birthday or Christmas, often enough that I felt loved and listened to, not so often that I expected it. I felt safe pushing her for things I wanted because either she would agree or say no. I didn’t have to handle the shoulds, the guilt.

Adult Sarah:

Rather than just say I am now a mess at making purchase decisions, at postponing gratification, I’ll use the metaphor of colors:

Red for pleasure and excitement, orange for wanting.
Gray for guilt that stretches back for decades.
Shades of blue for learning from the past, present reflections.
Green? Whatever. It means things, but I don’t always know what.
Black – the framer, the delineator. When suggestion is not clear enough.

IN CLOSING – suggested, not defined:

I keep going back to the broad brush strokes of "Pre-Blackberry" – but there is nothing rough or abstract about it. It has fewer colors – a narrower palate than other of Carol Marine’s recent works. I think she said she also tried simplifying her background technique, doing less prep on the painting surface.

But when you look at the blackberry blossom, it’s clearly there. Nothing is missing. The image is strong.


Carol Nelson said...

I liked this post. Your analysis of Carol Marine's style is spot on. Her alla prima approach to painting is her trademark style. I too own her work and greatly admire the way she makes it look easy.
I am wondering, however, if it is the best approach for writing. Perhaps it is in a blog setting, but sometimes I like to read writers who just let the words flow without concern for economy or being succinct. Wordsmithing. To paint a picture with words, you might need to use more than a few.
That being said, your description of the child feeling secure and comforted just by HEARING her mother cleaning up in the kitchen was so good. I remember that feeling too.

SarahBowie said...

Interesting observations - I would expect no less from you! It was a writing exercise - a stretch in perspective, I guess.

Anonymous said...

I've not met that painter who received the critique. I do watch that painter's work. That painter is superior to both the critic and Marine. I agree that Marine is very good, I enjoy her work, but not as accomplished as said painter who was critiqued and "advised".

SarahBowie said...

I agree, I think the painter who received the criticism is terrific. I said so on his blog that day. I almost bought the criticized painting too.